If it is true that all politics is local, then the recent English local elections have drastically affected the British political landscape, with far-reaching consequences for Europe. The rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is not simply blowing over. UKIP is in fact an English ‘nationalist party’ which - as a driving force against the EU-membership - deeply divides the United Kingdom.
The natural leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage (49), is a member of the European Parliament and sits just a few meters away from me. When I speak on behalf of the group of European Conservatives and Reformists, I sit next to Farage, leader of an anti-European group, which also includes the Dutch SGP. He is a funny guy, speaking with humour, but also with a sharp tongue during debates, in particular when figureheads of the 'European elite' are present. He considers himself a filibuster opposing both the European and the British establishment. He perorates and ridicules. Farage puts up a show arguing for a British exit of the EU and manages to hit all the sore spots of the anonymous bureaucracy. Outside of that, everything is jolly good, as long as a pint of beer stays within arm's reach.
For years Farage was depicted as a clown. Those days are over. He is reaping the fruits from the 'Stockholm syndrome' that influenced Tory leaders. Even long after the Thatcher tenure, British Conservatives kept being haunted by the label of 'nasty party': the heartless and cold party. Political opponents and the media hammered the point home, as the newly elected leader David Cameron had to steer his party back to the political centre through a narrative of compassion and fervour. He accepted the criticism and tried to turn the British Conservatives into the 'not nasty party'. He visited polar bears on the North Pole as part of the battle against climate change. The budget for development aid was ring-fenced, despite the crisis. He took a mild stance in relation to Europe, at least for British standards. Immigration was off limits as a topic during the elections, because it would come across as 'heartless'. The conservative English countryside started to stir. Cameron was paying more attention to the leftist newspaper The Guardian and the pro-European BBC than to sound and solid core of his electorate.
When it comes to scoring own goals, European socialists are true snipers. Tomorrow, on the 1st of May, they celebrate Labour Day; a moment to praise the ideal of equality and to demonise the rich. But greed has touched socialist leaders, especially in France and Germany. In the two core countries of euro socialism they launched a rhetoric "against the rich"; a class, by the way, to which they themselves belong.
The French President Francois Hollande is in trouble. As strategist from the school of his master, former President Francois Mitterrand, he knows that socialists can only win the presidency when the left is united and the right divided. Under President Sarkozy rightist France became divided between centre right and far right. Hollande wanted to force unity among the left by means of a campaign against "the rich". During a debate on TV he said: "I do not like rich people". As presidential candidate he launched the plan to tax incomes over 1 million Euros for 75%. The far left applauded. Hollande beat Sarkozy by a minimal difference.
After that it went downhill for Hollande. Wealthy French citizens emigrated or transferred their money abroad. The announcement of the measure led to a capital flight of 52 billion Euros, while the 75% tariff was supposed to bring in 200 million to the treasury.
After the first party congress of the Alternative für Deutschland, last Sunday in Berlin, Germany has a euro critical force that affects the core of German euro policy. The uprising is being led by economists, many of whom already published an open letter against the German euro policy in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on July 5, 2012. The professors break a taboo to which German politicians have to conform: "if the euro fails, Europe fails." The population's support is waning: the professors offer a credible voice.
The erosion process is fueled by a growing conflict between North and South in the euro zone. The Greek Ministry of Finance has produced a report in which it calculates the extent of the damages Germany inflicted on Greece during the war. Germany is requested to pay as much as 162 billion euros in reparations to Greece, 80 percent of the current Greek gross domestic product. The German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, responded brusquely by saying that the Greek government should focus on reforms of the economy. Since its inception, the euro has been a political currency that has little to do with economic logic. Germany wanted the euro to have friends in Europe. Instead, it creates enemies because the monetary union is a failing construction. Politicians ignored warnings from economists.
German economists are now taking up the political gauntlet: the Hamburg Professor Dr. Bernd Lucke is the leader of the party. There is always a certain occupational hazard with professors in politics. Their starting point is pure analysis and substantiated conclusion, not haggling and political twisting. In addition, they sometimes run the risk of blowing themselves up along with their hobbyhorse. That happened to the Heidelberg Professor Paul Kirchhof, who became the preferred Finance Minister in the 2005 parliamentary elections on behalf of the CDU. Kirchhof's pet was the flat tax, a unitary fiscal rate which he promoted in the campaign, while it was not a party position. Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) recognized the opportunity and branded Kirchhof as an "advocate of the rich". The SPD campaign crucified Kirchhof upside down. He resigned and left the CDU to deal with the mess.